As more organizations adopt Hangouts and other web meeting tools, some of the etiquette rules common for in-person meetings warrant an updated (or just a friendly reminder).
Here are 5 ways to better manage web meetings
1) Understand and Manage the Technology
Make sure you understand how to use the technology and take time to hold practice meetings to tune your skills. In addition to leading the meeting, you may need to manage features such as mute, document sharing, desktop sharing, chat, and questions. You may also be managing which video feed attendees see by default. Controlling these features while conducing a meeting takes practice. In some cases, you may want to have a “producer” work the controls for you.
2) Define Your Purpose and Outcome
All meetings should have a purpose. Before scheduling the meeting, define your purpose. Whether to discuss an issue, review status, or make decisions, communicate the purpose clearly with invitees and set expectations so that people arrive on time and prepared.
Consider the desired outcome as well. Who are the key stakeholders and who are the influencers? What do you want attendees to think or do after the meeting? Keep in mind that “Deciding between A and B” is a different desired outcome than “Decide to do A and not B”.
3) Be Professional
Preparation is critical. More than an agenda, provide invitees with appropriate background materials and sufficient time to review and formulate questions or concerns. Solicit input and suggestions of issues that may arise in the meeting so that you may address or alleviate these before the meeting.
4) Make Your Points; Support Your Ideas
During the meeting, present and speak confidently. It is fine to be assertive, but not aggressive or defensive. Be clear. Be concise. Organize your thoughts and make your point in a concise statement. Continue with supporting information as needed.
Questions will be asked. Expect them, be ready to answer, have your supporting facts and opinions, and don’t take them personally.
5) Manage Conflicts and Stay in Control
Conflicts will happen. While never desirable and sometimes unpleasant, with sound preparation and confident meeting skills, conflicts can be managed.
Understand who is attending the meetings and, as much as possible, their priorities and viewpoints. After providing an agenda and supporting materials in advance, solicit invitees for issues and concerns. Don’t wait for the meeting; start to work on resolving them before the meeting.
If conflict is anticipated, or arises during the meeting, step back and introduce more formality. Refresh the structure of the meeting and how people can best participate. Keep the meeting focused on the agenda, and control the microphones if needed to maintain order.
With planning and practice, web meetings will take advantage of the convenience and ability to share information dynamically, without sacrificing decorum and effective outcomes.